A few day ago I posted a berry hand pie recipe. One of my followers asked if I had done a savory pie with this dough. While I sent her links to my pocket breads with a raised doughs—bierock, taco, and baozi—I thought, “Why not?” I decided to do a California Fusion chicken curry in a biscuit dough hand pie.
My wife Jan is getting a bit tired of everything in a baked bread wrap, because you cannot skip the carbohydrates. However, Eilene and I love them. Jan will just have to soldier on through.
After Dinner Note: One of the disadvantages of always making new dishes is that they do not all work out as planned. I believe in sharing my failures as well as my successes. This dish was not a complete success. For one thing, the dough was very soft and the filling tended to punch holes in it if you rolled it out too thinly.
I had thought that adding the frozen mustard greens to the pan would add just enough liquid to cook them without making the dish soggy. Lumps of the frozen vegetable simply did not break down as I had expected. While some of the vegetables were just barely cooked, the rest got overcooked. Also, I put the lid on the pan while I was letting the filling cool. This lead to the entire filling becoming overcooked.
Jan thought that the mustard greens overpowered the chicken. Myr though that the vegtables were just right. Eilene was disappointed that I did not use my chicken curry pasty filling, which she thought was much better. I have edited the recipe—from what I actually did— to correct for these flaws.
Karl’s Chicken Curry Hand Pies
1 small chicken thigh
1 small chicken breast
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 black cardamom pod, seeds only
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 Tbs. Madras curry powder
1 cups frozen mustard, defrosted but not drained
¼ cup Madera wine
1 small Jalapeño chili, minced
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp. black pepper
2½ cups flour, AP
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. paprika
1. Put the chicken in the freezer for half an hour.
Tip: This partially freezes and firms up the meat and makes it easier to slice it into shreds.
2. Shred the meat and reserve.
Tip: The goal here is to cut the meat into matchsticks—⅛x⅛x1 inch—neither chunks nor minced, but something in between. Keep the thigh and breast meat separate.
Note: Breast meat overcooks very quickly. You will be using the thigh meat to develop the chicken flavor of this dish, but you will not add the raw breast meat until the very end.
3. Put the cumin, coriander, and cardamom seeds in a dry pan and toast them for one minute, until fragrant.
4. Process the seeds in a spice grinder to a powder and reserve.
5. Add the oil to the pan and heat it over a medium high heat, until shimmering.
6. Add the thigh meat in a single layer and cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes.
Tip: Do not stir the chicken, this will only cause the meat to release its juices and slow down the Millard reaction.
Note: The goal here is to get a good dark browning on one side of the chicken bits to develop a rich chicken flavor.
7. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and reserve.
Tip: Do not worry if the tops of the chicken bits are not cooked through at this time.
8. Without cleaning the pan, sauté the onions with the salt until soft, about five minutes.
Tip: Use the moisture released by the onions to deglaze the pan.
9. Pull the onions to the sides of the pan and sprinkle the seeds and curry powders over the onions
10. Add the garlic and tomato paste to the hole in the center.
11. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has started to brown.
12. Stir in the onions and spices and cook for one minutes more.
13. Stir in the mustard greens and the wine.
14. Cook, stirring frequently for two minutes to reduce the liquid and par-cook the mustard.
Tip: The filling will get a second cooking while it is baking inside the dough, so it is not necessary to completely cook the filling at this time.
15. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked thigh bits, the raw breast shreds, the minced Jalapeño and the black pepper.
Tip: The breast meat will par-cook in the hot mustard and also cool the filling more quickly.
Note: Do not cover the pan while the filling is cooling. This will cause the filling to overcook.
16. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar several times into a large bowl.
Tip: Repeated sifting helps distribute the ingredients evenly through the mix.
Note: Self-rising flour is not commonly available in the US. So the repeated sifting is an attempt to get an even distribution of salt and baking powder.
17. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture.
Tip: Stir the butter shred into the flour so that they do not clump together.
18. Use a pastry cutter, to break the butter shreds into tiny bits.
Tip: Many recipes have up use a pastry cutter on large lumps of butter. While this eventually works, the heat created by repeated chopping starts to warm the butter. With the frozen butter shreds you only have to chop the butter a few times to get a through mix.
19. Preheat the oven to 425º F.
20. Add most of the milk to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to combine them.
Tip: If necessary, add a bit more milk to make a soft dough.
21. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10-15 times.
22. Roll the dough to one half inch thick and cut the biscuits out with a 3 inch biscuit cutter.
23. A few at a time, roll out each biscuit out into a 5 inch circle.
24. Add two tablespoon of the chicken mixture to the center of each disc.
Note: I had rolled out my disks into 6 inch circles and put a quarter cup of filling into each one. It was very difficult to seal the pies without getting holes in the dough. Also, the finished biscuit layer of the cooked pies turned out to be too thin walled.
25. Pull up the opposite sides of the dough and pinch the edges to seal them along the top.
Tip: If the filling has punched a hole in the dough, take a small pinch of dough and flatten it to make a patch. Wet one side and press it over the hole.
Note: Before sealing the last corner, press any air out of the pie.
26. Melt two tablespoon of butter in a small cup and stir in one teaspoon of paprika.
27. Brush each pie with a stripe of paprika butter
28. Place the sealed pie on a parchment paper lined baking tray.
29. Continue rolling, filling, and sealing, until you run out of ingredients.
Note: You may have leftover filling. Mix it with scrambled eggs for a savory breakfast.
30. Bake the hand pies at 425° F, on the middle rack, for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
31. Transfer the finished pies to a wire rack to cool.